Far away From Family: Three things we can do to protect loved ones from the financial pitfalls of isolation

I can remember visiting my grandma well into her 90’s and I always marveled at the phone calls and drop in visitors that she had from family and friends. The phone calls and visits were instrumental in keeping her connected to and safe from the outside world.

My grandma had eight children and 46 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great- great-grandchildren. On any given day, she saw or heard from a few of them. I can remember the black rotary dial phone that sat on the arm of an oversized chair and the 50ft cord that allowed her to be in any room of the house while having these conversations.

Fast forward 40 years and we find ourselves, not by choice but by necessity, cutting ourselves off from most human contact, and the world in general. Visits have all but stopped and calls have slowed down. With very little going on we find we have much less to talk about.

What is the risk to older people of increased isolation?

While mental health and issues surrounding loneliness have become amplified during the pandemic, another risk rarely talked about is the risk of fraud. Let’s take a look at how the Pandemic has fueled an increase in financial fraud among older Manitobans:
Older people who are isolated become more vulnerable to being the victim of financial fraud because:

  • Social isolation and diminishing cognitive capacity can combine to affect the judgment of an older person which can in turn affect their ability to make sound financial decisions.
  •  Those who live alone are more likely to be victimized as they do not have anyone to discuss an investment proposal with.
  • People who are socially isolated, turn to the internet or social media platforms for connectivity. Fraudsters know this and reach out to these vulnerable individuals with the hopes of separating them from their money.

So, what can you do?

Wondering what you can do to help the seniors in your life to lower their risk of financial fraud? Here are three action items you can take:

  1. Stay connected – Call, reach out with an email message, drop by for a socially distanced visit.
  2.  If they are on social media or email, share with them – unbiased legitimate information on frauds and scams along with alerts and warnings
  3. Make them aware of fraudster tactics, the red flags of financial fraud, and that they are using the pandemic to exploit them. For example, fraudsters will use the following tricks:
      • They will attempt to become their friend… be warned!
      • They will put pressure on and feign urgency for a fast decision, etc.
      • They will promise high returns with little or no risk.

While my grandma was a very skeptical lady, I know without a doubt that if she were cut off from her world, she may not have made decisions in her best interest. During these unprecedented times, we owe it to our loved ones to be on the look out with and for them.

– Ainsley Cunningham
Founder and Project Coordinator, MoneySmart Manitoba
Manager, Education & Communications, Manitoba Financial Services Agency

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